David was living in the wilderness. He was exiled from his homeland. He was given the city of Ziklag by Philistine king Achish. Ziklag means winding, or bending. It is associated with “a measure of oppression,” and being, “enveloped in grief.”  The consequence of letting our fears control and drive us is that we are led off the path of God. God’s path leads to life and fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). God’s path restores the soul and leads to righteousness (Psalm 23:3). God’s path leads to mercy and truth (Psalm 25:10). David allowed his fear to drive him off that path. He had no business being in Ziklag. But God is faithful. Even though David got off His path God had a plan to bring David home.
Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33). David became infected with the dark ways of the Philistines. He drifted from God’s path of mercy and truth into atrocious and merciless behavior inappropriate for a future king of Israel (1 Sam.27). God has a way of drawing us back to Himself. In fact, no one can come to the Father unless He draws them (John 6:44). That is grace.
Straying into enemy territory puts you in a vulnerable position. It was the Amalekites who had raided Ziklag (1 Sam. 30:1). The Amalekites are an Old Testament symbol-type of the flesh; the sinful nature. They had ruthlessly attacked God’s people preying on the weak (Exodus 17). There is an important lesson to learn here. When we stray from the Lord we put ourselves at the mercy of our flesh. That is a perilous position to be in. Our flesh will raid our life and jeopardize all that is near and dear to us; like our family. If you have crossed the line into enemy territory by indulging in some sin, beware, you are putting that which is precious to you at risk. If you are frequenting places of sin like pornographic websites, allowing fears of passing years to drive you into sinful relationships, or doing those things God has clearly marked as unfitting for a child of God, look out! You are going to get burned!
David had been on a three day raiding party of his own. He and his men had left their loved ones, possessions and everything precious to them at their camp in Ziklag. The third day in scripture is significant. It was on the third day that Abraham reached Moriah where he would offer his son Isaac to the Lord (Gen. 22:4). The prophet Hosea speaks of a revival, a resurrection that will take place on the third day (Hosea 6:2). This points us to the greatest event of any third day, the resurrection of Jesus (Mat. 16:21; Luke 24:46; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4). Jesus was raised on the cross on Mount Moriah or Calvary, died there and rose again from the dead, on the third day. Significant events that determine life and death frequently happen on the third day. For David, something had to die in order for God’s life to be rekindled on the third day.
David was straying from the Lord. He was going in the wrong direction. God therefore allowed something to get his attention and draw him back. There are times when God allows an enemy to attack and steal in order to get our attention. God is able to cause all things to work together for His good (Rom. 828). God allowed the Amalekites to raid Ziklag while David was wandering on his own raid.
Ziklag is burned! That was the horrifying slap in the face reality David returned to. The raider had been raided. And as he saw the smoke rise he instantly must have been flooded with fears for his loved ones. True to his fears, David and his men found all that was dear and precious to them gone. Fear only leads to more fear. Mercifully, God had seen to it that none were killed. But family, women and children, wives, mothers, sons and daughters, babes, were all gone! They were at the mercy of their captors. Ziklag was left a burning heap symbolizing what happens when one strays from God (1 Sam. 30:1-3).
What affect did this have on David and his mighty men? It states, “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (1 Sam. 30:4). Even the mighty can be reduced to tears by such loss. Ever weep until you had no more power to weep? Ever suffer tremendous loss? Ever lose it all? Ever feel hopeless and helpless? Ever been consumed and wasted with pain, sorrow, and despair? Trials are not always the result of personal sin (e.g. Job). But here we see the destiny of those who wander off God’s path.
David was greatly distressed. Trials never seem to come one at a time. They don’t come like the single shot of a musket. They come more like the rapid fire of a machine gun. David probably didn’t think things could get worse; but they could. His men and everyone else under his charge turned on him and spoke of stoning him (1 Sam. 30:5-6a). It is here, at the lowest of the low points of David, that we see what we need to do when we find our own Ziklag burned to the ground.
It says, “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam. 30:6b). David was the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts13:22). David had to know that crossing over into the enemy’s camp was not acceptable to God. He was out of place and acting in ways a man of God should never act. It’s only a matter of time before we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-9). But David didn’t allow despair, guilt or regret to drive him away from the Lord. That would have served only to compound his pain and problem. No, David ran back to the Lord. That’s what it means to be “a man after God’s own heart.” It means that even when we stray and suffer miserably as a result, we still pursue God and rely on His faithfulness, mercy, and grace toward the sinner. No matter what, run to the LORD!
David “inquired of the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:8). The LORD directed him to pursue the raiders and assured him that he would “recover all.” David obeyed (1 Sam. 30:9-10). God led him along the way (1 Sam. 30:11-16). David pursued and attacked the Amalekites and defeated them thoroughly. God was merciful. David and his men were able to rescue and recover all that had been lost (1 Sam. 30:17-20). And that is what we must do when we find our Ziklag burned. We need to turn to the Lord. Inquire of Him. Obey and follow His leading. Take action against the enemy flesh. And hopefully, like David, we will be able to recover all.
Later David would cross the line again. This time, as king, he neglected his responsibility to lead his men into battle. The result was serious sin; adultery with Bathsheba; and premeditated murder of her husband (2 Sam. 11). His sin was exposed. He repented and confessed his sin and was forgiven (2 Sam. 12; Psalm 51). But this time a scar from his sinful indulgence had a permanent lasting impact on his loved ones. Some were lost forever (2 Sam. 12:19; 13:1-39).
Yes, God is merciful. But there were some things David was not able to recover; the things that had burned. That which is burned is permanently lost. That’s sobering. The burnt offering to the Lord was a sacrifice of permanence. It was a statement that what I give to the Lord I give permanently. If you have crossed into enemy territory and your Ziklag has yet to be burned or sin exposed, stop now! Stop in the power of the Lord and by His grace avoid a burning. He will faithfully show you how to escape (1 Cor. 10:13). If there’s going to be a burning let it be a burning fueled with the things of the flesh. Let it be a holy fire! Run to the LORD! Confess your sin and repent! Otherwise you may come home to find great loss. . . . or no home at all.